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Zombieland

October 13, 2009

Zombieland is fucking huge. All event movies would like to be this big; it has done fabulous business and continues to do so, and it seems to be everywhere. Twitter, for instance, waxes in and out of trending it (“zombieland was awesome you will like it lol” says @jackcity64, and who could resist @dreloc94’s “LOL… ZOMBIELAND WAS THE SHYT HAHAHA” recommendation?).

It is, not that you need telling, the comic tale of a bunch of plucky survivors adrift in an America devastated by a Dead apocalypse. And it starts off at a hundred miles an hour.

With the backdrop of a burning Capitol building, and with Hendrix’s still-striking mushed-up Star-Spangled Banner setting the tone, a disfigured goo-spewing zombie starts to come at you and this sense of in-your-face confusion blasts us through the inventive credits and then into the cautious life of Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), a geeky survivor.

Columbus has managed to stay ahead of the game because he adheres to his raft of OCD rules for dealing with the Dead. Fitness, or Cardio, for example, being Rule No.1 (“The fatties were the first to go.”).

These Rules form a neat little motif throughout, appearing, first because of his voice-over, and then when we’re all complicit with his mindset, as physical 3D obstacles on the screen, items to be bumped into or knocked over. They’re smart and a bit Fourth Wall-y, and they give Zombieland a stylistic edge you might not otherwise have expected. They also start to get a little irritating. And, if anyone’s seen Warner Brothers’ TV series Fringe, they’re not entirely original. Still, it wouldn’t be quite so quirkily entertaining a movie without them, I just wish it had been toned down a tad. Just a tad.

Anyhoo. Columbus meets Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) and then Wichita (Emma Stone) and finally Little Rock (Little Miss Sunshine‘s Abigail Breslin) along the way and without really letting on to the audience – who are still reeling from the excellent opening – we’ve somehow become a road movie. Not a bad road movie, but a road movie nevertheless. In fact, the opening and the climax aside, Zombieland is fairly zombie-lite.

Don’t all shout at once, it is. 300 million+ people but the landscape isn’t exactly crawling with horrors. I could have done with a lot more dread (or some, I should say) but that might have encroached on the vibe of the whole affair. It is a funny movie, and there is much capering about and happy abandon to be had twatting the re-animated, but for a movie called Zombieland, it’s not really a land filled with zombies. All I’m saying.

That noted, we eventually get to California and it’s there I sort of switched off. I was with it. It was fine. No real complaints at all. It passed the laugh test, a handful of the horror tests, and I was pretty happy. Not up there with Mr Dreloc94, above, I’ll admit, but I was doing OK. And then along comes The Cameo. A lot has been written about Bill Murray’s cameo (as Bill Murray), so it’s not exactly letting the cat out of the bag to say that Bill Murray’s in it. People in the audience enjoyed it, I just thought it was indulgent and pointless and indicated that they’d essentially run out of all their good ideas in the first half, figured they needed a boost in the flagging second Act, and so on comes Bill Murray. As Bill Murray. I preferred the Amber Heard cameo, personally. But, hey.

As the movie walked up to it’s rather lacklustre finale, I couldn’t help but think that I’d been entertained, but not quite as royally as I initially expected.

Rule No.1, let’s not get carried away.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 28, 2009 1:47 pm

    It’s a great image that, like some dream study date gone disastrously wrong. The girl’s about to throw herself at him, but really not as he might have hoped.

    I suspect that’s intentional, is it do you think?

    This, for me, is one for DVD. I’ll wait until it drops to a fiver or so, pick it up, watch it one evening and then likely give it to a friend. It sounds fun, but not big fun.

  2. October 28, 2009 2:02 pm

    That’s Amber Heard, blonde bombshell from the terrific All The Boys Love Mandy Lane, and so there’s a neat conceit involved there with a former scream queen providing the screams herself. I liked that, as I suggest, a lot more than Murray’s later pop-up.

    I think you’re right, Max. It will make a very enjoyable oh-it’s-only-£4 purchase at Tesco, see it through, watch the extras, pass it on. The box office it’s done is a surprise, and although I hope it might turn the big crowds onto a different stream of movies, I think it’s a blip and nothing more.

  3. October 28, 2009 2:18 pm

    I rarely watch extras to be honest, all too often they’re just a way of padding the dvd package so as to justify the price (particularly an issue with some older, but still popular, films).

    Well, also so many of them are bad. Commentaries for example, frequently surprisingly content free.

    Deleted scenes can be interesting, it’s rare I can’t see why they were deleted. 28 Days Later is the only one I can think of where the deleted scenes would have been better than the ones kept, and with Land of the Dead the deleted scenes would actually have made it make sense (which it didn’t entirely).

    Hm, that’s more thematically linked to this review than I expected. Clearly zombie movies are where the good DVD extras are.

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